Tom Kacich | Recent statewide polls not in GOP's favor

Tom Kacich | Recent statewide polls not in GOP's favor

In politics, Labor Day weekend traditionally is the time to take stock of the electoral landscape and for candidates to begin the sprint to Election Day.

It's 65 days until Nov. 6, and just 25 days until early voting starts at the Champaign County Clerk's office (Sept. 27).

And right now in Illinois — with the caveat that things can change in two months — the outlook is upbeat for Democrats. Maybe more accurately, it's downcast for the GOP because of two anchors weighing down the party: President Donald Trump and Gov. Bruce Rauner.

Statewide, they are unusually unpopular officeholders, according to an Aug. 12-16 survey of 831 adults (734 of whom were registered voters), taken by the Marist Institute for Public Opinion and NBC News.

Trump's approval rating was 31 percent, with 19 percent voicing strong approval of his job performance and 43 percent saying they strongly disapprove. Trump's favorable score was 30 percent, with 60 percent unfavorable. It's worth noting he got 38.8 percent of the statewide vote for president in 2016.

Rauner's numbers aren't much better: His favorable score was 26 percent, with 52 percent unfavorable. And in a head-to-head matchup with Democrat J.B. Pritzker, Rauner is down 16 percentage points, 46 percent to 30 percent.

A margin that big is unusual in Illinois, where gubernatorial elections routinely are decided by margins of 4 percent. That was the gap in 2014, 2010 and 1998. It was 10 percent in 2006, 7 percent in 2002 and 2.5 percent in 1990. Of the last seven Illinois gubernatorial elections, only the 1994 contest between Republican Jim Edgar and Democrat Dawn Clark Netsch was a blowout bigger than the 16-point lead Pritzker showed. The Edgar-Netsch margin was almost 30 percentage points.

What has to be particularly troubling to other Republican candidates is that the Marist poll also showed that 49 percent of Illinoisans say they prefer Democratic control of Congress to 35 percent who favored Republican control. That lead held even in downstate Illinois (47 percent Democratic to 42 percent Republican) although it wasn't nearly as strong as in Cook County (62 percent Democratic to 19 percent Republican).

The one saving grace for some Republicans, such as U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis and GOP candidates in Champaign County, is that the poll found that voters under the age of 30 weren't nearly as enthusiastic about voting in November.

Overall, 66 percent of Illinois voters consider the November election to be "very important." But only 44 percent of voters aged 18 to 29 do. That could translate into a comparatively low turnout among college-age students in Champaign County and around the several campuses in Davis' district.

On the other hand, 83 percent of Democrats said voting this fall is very important while 62 percent of Republicans said they felt that way. Other groups who said they had a high interest in voting this fall: very liberal/liberal, college graduate, African-American and big city/small city residents. Those are all traditionally Democratic groups.

More aid for Londrigan

Emily's List, the pro-choice political action group for female Democratic congressional candidates, is again stepping up big for 13th Congressional District Democrat Betsy Dirksen Londrigan of Springfield.

In last spring's primary election in the central Illinois district that includes Champaign-Urbana, Emily's List affiliate Women Vote! provided Londrigan with $185,000 worth of campaign assistance, mostly mail pieces to voters.

This month, Women Vote! is paying for about $150,000 of TV ads on Londrigan's behalf.

Women Vote! reported a nearly $50,000 buy at WCIA-TV in Champaign for 101 30-second spots between Aug. 21 and Sept. 3.

The group already has spent about $357,000 on Londrigan's behalf in her race against Republican U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis of Taylorville.

Londrigan is among 63 Democratic women nationwide who are being supported by Women Vote! Others from Illinois include Rep. Cheri Bustos of Moline and challenger Lauren Underwood of Naperville, who is challenging Rep. Randy Hultgren.


More aid for Davis

Four more labor unions have announced their support for Davis' re-election: the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices of the Plumbing and Pipe Fitting Industry, the National Association of Letter Carriers, National Air Traffic Controllers Association, and the Associated Fire Fighters of Illinois.

Six other unions endorsed Davis earlier this summer.

"Since being elected to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Davis has had the back of Illinois working families and the members of the United Association. Whether he was leading the effort to defeat anti-union legislation to prohibit Project Labor Agreements on construction projects or providing relief to union welders from government over-regulation; his support for our issues has not wavered," the United Association of Journeymen and Apprentices said in a statement.

Davis has received $179,000 in campaign contributions this election cycle from labor-affiliated groups, according to the website Opensecrets.org. Transportation unions are the top contributors at $71,000. Davis sits on the House Transportation Committee.

Fundraiser time

— Jen McMillin of Decatur, the Democratic candidate in Illinois House District 101, will hold a fundraising dinner from 6 to 8 p.m. Sept. 19 at the American Legion in Clinton. She'll be joined by State Treasurer Mike Frerichs of Champaign.

Tickets are $25 each. Various levels of sponsorship also are available.

McMillin faces Republican Dan Caulkins of Decatur in the general election. They are seeking to replace retiring state Rep. Bill Mitchell, R-Forsyth, in the 101st District.

— A number of local Democrats will host a fundraiser the following night for congressional candidate Londrigan.

The event will be from 7:30 to 9 p.m. Sept. 20 at Pizzeria Antica, 10 E. Chester St., Champaign. Tickets are $100 apiece, with higher sponsorship levels available.

Among the sponsors is Jon Ebel of Urbana, who ran against Londrigan in the March Democratic Party primary.

Londrigan dominated that election, gaining 45.7 percent in the five-way race.

Tom Kacich is a News-Gazette columnist. His column appears on Sundays.

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